Juliet Elliott has many strings to her bow – named one of Bike Biz’s “Most Influential Women in Cycling”, she’s a strong advocate for women in sport, competing in road, track and mountain bike races, as well as running her own YouTube channel. Now, Juliet is taking up the mantle of CALM ambassador, so we gave her a call to chat about lockdown, the cycling community and what being an ambassador means to her.
Juliet’s always on the move. When she’s not zooming down country lanes on her gravel bike, she’s bikepacking with her family, training for her next event, or head down in her next creative endeavour. Even when reality as we knew it ground to a halt during lockdown, Juliet kept moving, instead using the time to explore what was on her Devon doorstep.
For Juliet, cycling is a form of self-care, a little slice of escapism when things get a bit much. Passionate about the positive effects of staying active, she wants to encourage the CALM community to keep moving for their minds. So, before you let out a groan at the thought of donning your activewear this Winter, this inspiring lady is here with the pep talk we all need from time to time.
“Let’s face it, 2020 has been really hard, but if I’m feeling a bit low, even if I’m not particularly motivated or energetic, going on a bike ride really helps lift my mood. Just being outdoors and getting moving gives you a real boost. Exercise was one of the few things that wasn’t taken away from us this year. A lot of the things we enjoy like going to the pub, eating out, or going to the cinema were shut down during lockdown, so sport has become even more important in managing our mental health and bringing some pleasure into our days.”
Despite her status in the cycling world, Juliet is modest, acutely aware of using her platform to empower people to get into cycling, no matter how much experience they have. As a CALM ambassador she wants to share the community spirit that she found through cycling:
“I’ve got friends all over the world that I’ve met through racing. When I first moved to Devon I didn’t know anyone, so the first thing I did was join a local cycling club. It was really nice to feel a part of something and there was always somebody to go for a ride with. It’s a sociable sport and can make you feel very united.”
In 2012 Juliet lost her friend pro-snowboarder and keen cyclist, Nelson Pratt, after he took his own life. Every year since, the cycling community has rallied together in Nelson’s memory. Nelson’s Tour De Test Valley, otherwise known as Ride On Nelly, is a cycling event to raise awareness of mental wellbeing while raising money for CALM.
Over the eight years the event has been running it’s raised almost half a million pounds. But the event is about so much more than raising some cash, it’s also a great way for people to come together, make connections and talk openly. Juliet believes there’s a sense of belonging that can be found in the cycling community that can be really beneficial to our emotional health.
“I’m so proud of how the event has done, but because I’m self-employed as a cyclist and video maker, my schedule is hectic. I took part in the first event but I’ve been busy with work each year since. Because of lockdown lots of my cycling events were cancelled, so I was able to take part. I rode with a good friend of mine who lost his son to suicide last year, so it was an especially poignant ride, but we had a lovely day. There were sad moments where we were remembering friends and family, but it felt like we were doing something positive and raising money for CALM at the same time.”
As a CALM ambassador, Juliet wants people to feel like they can open up about their mental wellbeing, a tactic she relies on when she’s having a bad day:
“If you’re struggling, then try and speak to someone. When I’ve been finding things difficult I’ll chat to whoever is available, whether it’s friends, family, or people on social media. You might not be looking for a solution to the problem, but it can help to talk it through and get things off your chest. There’s sometimes a place for cosying up in bed with a hot chocolate, but I find staying active also helps. Get outside because outdoor exercise is proven to boost your mental health – even if it’s just a walk around the block!”
Cycling offers a chance to rekindle the childlike freedom of speeding along on a pushbike. It can give us headspace, a chance to explore, and can even connect us with a wider community. Juliet’s standout ride?
“I went bikepacking in Los Padres National Forest in California last year. We did a few days where we were riding each day and then setting up camp and it was with a really nice bunch of people. It was an amazing landscape, there was no mobile phone signal and it was just total freedom.”
What are you waiting for? Get on yer bike and turn a bad day into a bike day. Juliet’s YouTube channel is full of videos to inspire your ride.
Need support? Worried about someone? CALM’s helpline and webchat are open daily 5pm-midnight. Get access here.
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